The role of psychological development in the Latin American novela negra: Dismantling violence and fear an analysis of the novels 77 and Abril rojo

Jamison, Sara
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University of Delaware
According to the Royal Spanish Academy, fear is defined as the anxious disturbance in one’s mood caused by a perceived risk, whether real or imaginary. Taking into account the tumultuous history of the Latin American continent during certain periods, there is no doubt that fear constitutes a key aspect in Latin American literature of the 20th and 21st centuries. As a literary artifact with growing cultural relevance, the Latin American novela negra has developed as a means of social criticism that reflects upon violence, corruption and impunity within a political context. In addition to denouncing a corrupt social environment, the novela negra reflects the psychological trauma resulting from institutional violence in Latin American societies. This study analyzes the novels 77 (2008) by Guillermo Saccomanno and Abril rojo (2006) by Santiago Roncagliolo with the intention of demonstrating how the psychological development of their respective protagonists serves to reflect institutional violence and corruption, thus leading to the exposition of a social criticism. The focus of my analysis places emphasis on the portrait that these novels convey of a general mood of fear both on an individual and societal level. By situating each novel within the crime fiction genre, I demonstrate how the authors develop a realistic portrayal of the culture of fear produced during the military dictatorship in Argentina and the counter-subversive struggle in Peru, respectively. The portrayal of the culture of fear relates to the psychological development of each of the protagonists, which, in turn, contributes to the communication of a critique regarding institutional violations and abuses. I analyze the evolution of Professor Gómez, the protagonist of 77, and Félix Chacaltana Saldívar, the protagonist of Abril rojo with the intention of demonstrating the role of psychological development in carrying out a social criticism. In conclusion, the present study aims to illustrate how the crime fiction genre functions to reflect social corruption as well as the psychological impact of violence by presenting a palpable environment of terror and fear in the Latin American context during the 20th and 21st centuries.